Sandra Ann Lauer (born 18 May 1962 in Saarbrücken), professionally known as Sandra, is a German Euro disco singer who became popular in the 1980s with the help of Michael Cretu whom she had married in 1988. The two met when Sandra was part of a group named Arabesque which saw little success, and he was a musician. She is currently living in Ibiza, Spain with her husband and two children, Nikol and Sebastian.
After enjoying a little success as a lead singer of the disco trio Arabesque, Sandra began performing solo , with Michael Cretu as manager, producer and composer for her first international #1 hit-single "(I'll Never Be) Maria Magdalena" in 1985. Sandra has topped the charts from as far afield as Sweden, Egypt, France, South Africa, Israel, Japan and Brazil with even more singles in the '80s. She still remains very popular in Europe, being considered one of the most popular singers of the 1980s in the mainland Europe, and had performed in Romania in the spring of 2010.
Beside "Maria Magdalena", her greatest hits are "In the Heat of the Night" (1985), "Everlasting Love" (1987), "Hi! Hi! Hi! (1986)" and "Hiroshima" (1990). Her top-rated albums are 1988's Into a Secret Land and 1992's Close to Seven. All her major hits are on the 18 Greatest Hits CD compilation.
Her latest singing projects include Enigma, after she decided to end her solo career in the '90s.
Sandra Ann Lauer was born in the German town of Saarbrücken, close to the French border. Sandra’s father, Robert Lauer is French and her mother, Karin Lauer is German. Sandra also had an older brother, Gaston (died in 1995), who was a paraplegic. Her father owned a wine shop in Saarbrücken and her mother worked in a shoe shop. Sandra showed an early interest in music and dancing. She started to learn classical ballet at the age of 5 and had continued lessons for 10 years. When she was 10 years old, she received a guitar and took lessons from a school teacher.
In 1975, at the age of thirteen, Sandra visited a competition in Saarbrücken, called Young Star Festival, where new talents for the music industry were scouted. She was not actually taking part in it, but sitting in the audience. When all the nominees finished their parts and the jury was discussing the results, she told her mother that she had to go to the public toilet, stood up, walked onto the stage, persuaded the DJ to put on the German cover version of a song from Olivia Newton-John, grabbed the microphone and started singing. Aided by newfound recognition, she released the single "Andy Mein Freund", a song about a pet dog. The single, however, performed poorly on the charts dominated by disco mania and she withdrew from the music scene for a few years.
In 1979 Sandra joined Arabesque, a disco group consisting of Michaela Rose and Jasmine Vetter. Soon after that they recorded their second album with Sandra on lead vocals at Europasound Studios in Offenbach. The studio was owned by famous producer Frank Farian, the creator of Boney M, and later Milli Vanilli. One of the musicians there was a keyboardist named Michael Cretu. Sandra and Michael found that they shared the same birthday, albeit five years apart, and became good friends.
With Arabesque a new period in Sandra’s life began. For the first time, she was away from her family, appearing on stage and TV in foreign countries, giving interviews, photo shoots and singing at concerts. Arabesque became successful, and by Sandra's nineteenth birthday she was a star. Arabesque were particularly popular in Japan dominating the charts, and their outrageous, sometimes daring costumes, dance routines and cheerful music suggested a fun alternative to ABBA and Boney M. They enjoyed success in several other countries and scored a Top 10 hit in Germany with "Marigot Bay" in 1981. After nine albums, differences in musical interests and the end of disco's popularity signalled the group's final break-up.
Sandra and Michael Cretu, romantically involved, moved to Munich, where Michael soon created his own studio, called Data-Alpha, after a song from his solo album Legionäre. Their first single together was 1984's "Japan ist weit", a German cover of the Alphaville song "Big in Japan", an appropriate way to describe Sandra's fame up to that point. However, the song failed to enter any of the charts and only 125 copies of the singe were sold.
Sandra achieved a palpable international success in 1985, owing to her chart-hitting single "(I'll Never Be) Maria Magdalena". This song topped the charts in 21 countries worldwide, and reached the Top 10 in a further five countries. Her first album, The Long Play (1985), reached number 12 in her home country of Germany. It remained in the German Top 20 for 16 weeks, while in Sweden "Maria Magdalena" spent four weeks at number one. The follow-up single "In the Heat of the Night" continued her success all over Europe and internationally, reaching number two in Germany and the Top 5 in France. At that time Sandra was acclaimed the "pop princess". The song also earned Sandra second place at the Tokyo Music Festival in Japan, later in 1986. "Little Girl" became the third single with the music video being filmed in Venice.
Shortly after the release of The Long Play, Sandra moved to London for six months. Helena Shelen, a singing instructor, who had previously worked with artists like George Michael and Paul Young took Sandra under her wings. Sandra also joined the London Berlitz School for Languages, where she improved her English abilities and took drumming lessons to get a better feeling for rhythm and timing. Over weekends she went back to Munich to work on her new album.
Sandra's second studio album Mirrors (released in October 1986) reflected the continuous musical development of Michael Cretu. On this album, he used more of the writing and singing talents of Hubert Kemmler (who was already a popular singer in Germany under the name Hubert Kah). "Don't Cry (The Breakup of the World)" was a non-single track on the album, written in reaction to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. "Innocent Love" was the first of four successful singles from the album, entering the Top 10 in France whereas the second single "Hi! Hi! Hi!" was another Top 10 hit in her native country of Germany. The ballad "Loreen" was the third single released from the album, while the electro-pop "Midnight Man" (with Michael Cretu singing in the chorus and appearing in the music video) became the fourth and final single from the album. The second album continued the same success all over Europe.
Two years after her spectacular debut, in 1987, Sandra released the greatest hits compilation Ten on One, a testimony to her quick rise to stardom. Accompanied with it was the video collection of the album giving fans a glimpse inside her private life and day-to-day routine. Her version of "Everlasting Love", a favorite song since her childhood, went to number five on German charts, becoming one of her biggest hits. The music video showed Sandra and a male model depicting scenes of various lovers through the ages, with Adam and Eve, Bonnie and Clyde, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and a colorful 1980s punk couple, amongst others. The second single from the album, "Stop for a Minute", became another German Top 10 hit and was written especially for the German TV crime series Tatort, where she is found singing the song during a club scene in one of the episodes.
On 7 January 1988, Sandra married Michael Cretu and relocated from Munich to the Spanish island of Ibiza. In the same year they worked on Sandra's new material.
In 1988 Sandra and Michael released Into a Secret Land, moving away somewhat from electro-pop to a more mysterious and seductive sound. Four hit singles were delivered from this album. The first single "Heaven Can Wait" became another Top 10 smash hit in France and number 12 hit in Germany, accompanied by a video featuring Sandra dancing and singing on a Mediterranean beach. The title track, "Secret Land", a cover version of the track "Trenchcoat Man" by the short-lived German synth pop project Fabrique, became the second single, entering the German Top 10. The third single "We'll Be Together" was another German Top 10 hit. ("We'll Be Together" along with "When the Rain Doesn't Come" (from 1992's Close to Seven album) are the only songs written or co-written by Sandra prior to the release of her album The Wheel of Time in 2002.) "Around My Heart", the fourth single released, peaked at number 11 in Germany.
The British team, Stock Aitken Waterman tried to cash in on the success of "Everlasting Love" by releasing a remix of the song in 1988 for the British market. The remixed version was a moderate hit on the UK charts (reaching #45), but did well in Sweden, The Philippines and South Africa. With animal rights and nature conservation high on her personal agenda, she took part in the project Artists United for Nature in 1989. The song "Yes We Can" featured, amongst others, the vocals of Brian May, Harold Faltermeyer and Chaka Khan.
Sandra ended the 1980s as one of the most popular female performers in Europe. At that stage she was also already known as the European queen of pop and rivaled Madonna in terms of her popularity and Top 10 hits.
Sandra's album Paintings in Yellow (released in March 1990) gave her another Top 10 hit with a surprising cover version of Wishful Thinking's "Hiroshima". Elements of the five-part album track "The Journey" foreshadowed the Enigma sound, which was particularly evident on some of the album's tracks. Frank Peterson, who was the co-producer (alias F. Gregorian) on the Enigma project, took up the role of writing and producing some of the tracks with Michael Cretu. His influence was clearly audible.
In the same year, Enigma's song "Sadeness" became a huge hit in many countries all over the world. At first nobody knew who was hiding behind the alias Enigma, but Sandra fans quickly identified her voice. When the song became a Top 10 hit in the United States, it marked Sandra's first successful venture into the US market. Sandra performed the second single off her solo album "(Life May Be) A Big Insanity" at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo when she accepted the prize for Best Selling German Artist at the end of 1990. "One More Night" was the third and final single released from Paintings in Yellow.
Because of the overwhelming success of Enigma, and an almost two-year break after Paintings in Yellow, there was a gap in Sandra's career, which was finally closed, with the album Close to Seven. The album continued a development towards a more meditative, less dance-oriented musical style. Sandra wanted to get rid of her teen idol image and perform for a more mature audience. This was her first album produced almost completely by Michael Cretu. Close to Seven became another German Top 10 album. The male vocals were sung by Andy Jonas, also known as Andy "Angel" Hart.
Although the first single "Don't Be Aggressive" (with the music video being directed by Howard Greenhalgh) entered the European Top 20, subsequent singles failed to achieve the same success. The second single "I Need Love" was the first single after "Japan ist weit" for Sandra to flop and to not reach any of the charts. Nevertheless, Sandra and Michael were recognized as the most successful married couple and were awarded with the Golden Europe Award in 1992.
In the fall of 1992 a new compilation was released, entitled 18 Greatest Hits. Sandra recorded a new version of the song "Johnny Wanna Live", which was previously released on her Paintings in Yellow album. The song, co-written by Frank Peterson and later redone by his then-girlfriend Sarah Brightman for her album Dive, was an anthem against cruelty towards animals. The music video was once again directed by Howard Greenhalgh and showed shocking scenes of cruelty to animals. In an interview in Sweden, Sandra explained the origins of the song citing her disapproval of people wearing fur coats. The compilation reached the Top 10 in both Germany and France and was awarded gold. The release of 18 Greatest Hits marked the end of Sandra's most successful period of her solo career.
In 1993 Sandra released a new techno version of "Maria Magdalena" with a futuristic music video, which wasn't a success. However, it reached number 8 on the charts in Finland.
In 1995, while pregnant with twins, Sandra recorded and released Fading Shades. The album saw a new writer/producer Jens Gad working alongside Michael. The album featured a powerful cover version of "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues. The song went to number one in Israel and entered the Top 20 in Finland and Australia. The music video showed only close ups of Sandra's face as she was heavily pregnant at the time. She even had to sit during the recording sessions of the album. Again Andy "Angel" Hart performed all the male vocals on the album. The second single release was "Won't Run Away" which made no impact on the music charts.
On 6 July 1995, she gave birth to twin sons Nikita and Sebastian in a Munich hospital through Caesarean section. Sandra decided to put her career on hold to raise her children.
1999 saw the release of a double disc album. As the trend began with artists like Modern Talking to remix old material, My Favourites was released featuring remixes of her hits by long-time band companion Peter Ries, featuring also some of Sandra's personal favourite ballads. It quickly made its way into the Top 20 of the German album charts. "Secret Land '99" was taken as the single and showed Sandra sporting a short hairstyle in the music video. In 2000, Sandra did background vocals on Andru Donalds' single release "Precious Little Diamond".
Sandra's first studio album in seven years came with The Wheel of Time in 2002, reaching number eight on the German album charts. The first single "Forever", released in 2001, had a moderate success and showed a new mature, more natural-looking Sandra, still sporting short hair. Although some criticised The Wheel of Time for containing no less than five cover versions of 1980s songs, including the second single release "Such a Shame" (originally performed by Talk Talk), the album, however, was well received by her fans. Prior to this album's release, Sandra had only done three cover versions in English: "Everlasting Love" (1987), "Hiroshima" (1990), and "Nights in White Satin" (1995). Michael Cretu even convinced Sandra to cover "Freelove", a Depeche Mode song, which she did in just one take. The third single to be released was the ballad "I Close My Eyes". "Forgive Me" was also issued, but only as a promo single. In 2003, the DVD The Complete History was released, featuring all of her music videos.
Sandra's public appearances were few and far between when word got out in 2005 that the Swiss star DJ BoBo was planning a duet with her. She met DJ BoBo during the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo in 2002, when her husband accepted the prize for best-selling German artist. That meeting led to the single "Secrets of Love" in 2006. The dance anthem reached number five in Switzerland and number 13 in Germany. The music video was shot at Disneyland Park in Paris with Sandra and DJ Bobo being the only artists ever allowed to film inside the Cinderella castle. During this time Sandra took up performing live again and signs of her retro 1980s look, with the signature long hair, were seen again.
Virgin Records suggested that vocal recordings of Sandra's biggest hits be sent to different teams of producers/remixers so that they could produce entirely new music. Sandra hesitated at first because she had already put out a remix collection in 1999 and did not want to promote all of her former hits once again. She had already finished her eighth studio album and wished to move forward in a new musical direction. Nevertheless, Christian Geller, Schallbau, Felix J. Gauder, Matthias Menck, Ivo Moring and Mirko on Schlieffen delivered a successful result. In late 2006, Reflections was issued. Sandra's 1987 dance hit "Everlasting Love" even got a new vocal and was redone as a powerful ballad and distributed to the radio stations in Germany as a promotional single. Although the album reached the Top 10 of many online stores worldwide, no commercial single was released and not much more was done to promote this album. However, the radio single "Around My Heart 2006" became a huge hit in Poland, where the record company decided to promote it on the radio stations. In 2007 Virgin Music France decided to release a special version of Reflections, containing three new remixes made by French DJs. "In the Heat of the Night" was released online as a digital single containing four new versions of the song.
The highly anticipated studio album, The Art of Love was released in February 2007, entering the 16th position on the German charts. For the first time, Michael Cretu did not work as a producer for the album, as he was reportedly busy producing his new Enigma album A Posteriori. Sandra's management first tried to find producers from the United Kingdom, but Sandra didn't like the idea of leaving her family for a long period of time. Finally, Sandra contacted Michael Cretu's "right hand", Jens Gad, who produced the entire album. Sandra, for the first time during her career, now participated actively in composing and writing the album. Therefore, the lyrics of the songs are more personal, with Sandra revisiting her childhood and all her sad experiences in them. She worked at Gad's studio at nights, returning home to prepare breakfast for her twins, and then sleeping until they would come home from school. Also, for the first time, Sandra revealed her new, sexier look in the promotional pictures shot in New York by Bärbel Miebach.
The first single taken from the album, "The Way I Am", was released in January 2007, and it gained the 50th chart position in Germany, hardly having any promotion. The second single, "What Is It About Me", was released in May 2007 but failed to chart. The album also included a duet with DJ BoBo, and both sons of Sandra, Nikita and Sebastian, sang choirs in three songs. EMI Music in Poland decided to release her cover version of The Hooters' "All You Zombies" as a radio single instead of "What Is It About Me", and it became a big hit in Poland. Fans were campaigning to get the song released as a commercial single, while Sandra revealed in an interview that "Put Your Arms Around Me" (written by Sinéad O'Connor) was planned as a single, with an unreleased duet with DJ BoBo as a B-side. However, in a subsequent interview Sandra said that there would be no more singles released from the album.
In November 2007 it was announced that Sandra and Michael got divorced, citing "personal and professional differences". Both Sandra and Michael have since been reported to be in new relationships.
During all of 2007 and early 2008 Sandra has been busy touring around Eastern Europe and Germany. She decided to return to the busy schedule of concerts from the past, and even gave a performance in the spectacular Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia. Sandra also visited countries such as Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Lithuania for the very first time. On 23 July 2008, she performed in Athens, Greece. On 24 August 2008, Sandra performed in Poland during a concert dedicated to 1980s music, together with Kim Wilde, Samantha Fox, Sabrina, Modern Talking, Limahl and Shakin' Stevens. The concert was a part of Sopot International Song Festival 2008 and was broadcast live on Polish channel TVN. Sandra performed three songs: "(I'll Never Be) Maria Magdalena", "In the Heat of the Night" and "Hiroshima".
A new Sandra album, entitled Back to Life, was released on 27 March 2009. Sandra revealed it was going to be an up-tempo, pop album, with influences of Latin pop, dance and R&B. The first single, "In a Heartbeat" was released on 6 March 2009. The album was recorded in New York with the help of Jens Gad, and his brother Toby Gad (famous for his work with Beyoncé Knowles and Fergie). The second single, released on 8 May 2009, was "The Night Is Still Young", a duet with Thomas Anders, former member of Modern Talking. Also included on the album is the duet, "I Want You" sung by Sandra and her husband-to-be, Olaf Menges. Another standout track is "Tête à tête", written and composed by Sandra and sung in French language.
On 1 August 2009, Sandra was one of the main acts on the DJ BoBo & Friends festival, held in Engelberg, Switzerland. Sandra rocked fans with a superb live performance featuring her own band, a onstage DJ, plus complete new interpretations of her songs.
On 6 November 2009, a 3-disc greatest hits compilation album entitled The Platinum Collection was released, featuring 51 song including all of her hit singles from "(I'll Never Be) Maria Magdalena" to "The Night Is Still Young", as well as some non-released tracks from her albums Into a Secret Land, Paintings in Yellow, Close to Seven, The Art of Love and Back to Life. The third disc includes eleven extended versions of her greatest hits.
Sandra was married to Michael Cretu on 7 January 1988 with whom she had two sons (twins), Nikita and Sebastian, born in July 1995. Sandra and Michael divorced in November 2007, citing "personal and professional differences". Currently she resides in their old house in Ibiza, and Michael was reported to live in Germany since May 2009. In 2010, Sandra married her boyfriend, Olaf Menges.
Sandra is a health food lover and is a vegetarian. She likes sport and lives an active lifestyle. She's also known for her involvement in animal rights and nature protection. Both Sandra and her former husband Michael Cretu have always been gay rights supporters.